She’s a singer’s singer, and a songwriter’s songwriter who has received accolades for charting new territory with her beautiful songs and insightful lyrics. Now with her debut release on Koch Records, I Can’t Be New, singer/songwriter Susan Werner brings new life into the popular song tradition — by writing and album of new songs done in an old way. “This isn’t a record for jazz purists,” states Susan. “The purists want old songs done in a new way!” George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Billy Strayhorn — the golden age of popular song, a bygone era, no one can write tunes like that anymore. Or has Susan Werner added a new chapter to the Great American Songbook?
I Can’t Be New is Werner’s fourth nationally released recording. Werner and Boston-based producer Crit Harmon (Martin Sexton) set an early goal to create an emotionally powerful album filled with songs that engage listeners with beautiful vocals and moving performances, not solos. Drawing from a deep well of talented Boston-area musicians, Harmen assembled an elegant team including; clarinetest Billy Novick (David Bromberg), pianist Brad Hatfield (Boston Pops), upright bassist John Lockwood (Harry Belafonte) and drummer Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention). “I didn’t want to reinvent a style that was done 40 or 50 years ago,” Harmon explains. “I wanted to make a hybrid statement and avoid any cliche’ treatment of Susan’s songs.”
A breakthrough singer-songwriter in the mid-90s, Susan Werner has toured with countless luminaries including Joan Armatrading and Richard Thompson. She has also appeared on the Peter, Paul & Mary Lifelines special seen nationally on PBS. With a Master’s degree in classical voice, she had developed a reputation as one of the most compelling performers on the touring circuit.
“It’s the economy of the Great American Songbook tunes that I admire the most,” says Werner. “That’s the hardest thing to achieve — to pack all of this feeling, longing, heartbreak or desire into the tiniest song form. It’s deceptively difficult.”
It’s also quite possible we’ve all been deceived into believing the era of the Great American Songbook has come to an end. In creating I Can’t Be New, Susan Werner may have sparked something very new — a revival of interest in writing traditional pop songs. And that would be a Great American thing, indeed!